For an easy-to-understand overview of pervasive networking, we turned to Chris Nicoll, director of strategic marketing for Lucent Technologies: “In a broader sense, we see pervasive networking as the ability to communicate and access the same types of services-anytime, anywhere. This is regardless of the location, type of network or type of device used to access the network. There is a convergence of technology, business needs and end-user interest that is driving the development of networks to support pervasive communications, whether wireless or wireline, whether from home, business, hotel, coffee shop or on the move.”

Electrical contractors are most likely benefiting from the fact that pervasive networking takes place over a LAN (wired or wireless).

Pervasive computing is the basis for pervasive networking. Nicoll explained the difference, and similarity, between the two terms: “In its narrowest definition, pervasive networking [is] primarily related to computer network. Now, users' needs have moved beyond hardwired and facility-based computing to interest in hardwired and wireless/mobile voice and multimedia technology and services that improve productivity and match their active professional and personal lives.”

Nicoll continued: “Pervasive computing and pervasive networking can be used interchangeably if you take the narrow definition. However, if you believe, as Lucent does, that networking can involve IP telephones, cell phones, personal digital assistants and computers, then the two terms are related though not interchangeable.”

Pervasive computing is more expansive in theory and practice, since it connects various devices. Pervasive computing can include just about any object under the sun. By embedding devices within items, the items can be linked together and thus controlled, operated and accounted for. This goes above and beyond simply linking computers together, as the name mistakenly implies.

Major pilot projects such as IBM's Planet Blue and MIT's Oxygen are examples of how researchers and developers are working on making our world even more connected. Forward thinkers studying pervasive computing can imagine a time when everything from cars to clothing to appliances is embedded with computer chips, making just about every item traceable, observable and accountable-some of the basics behind computing itself. Users may not be aware of the interconnectivity because the technology performs so effortlessly.

Because pervasive networking is so broad and expansive, Internet protocol (IP) ties in quite well with the overall mission.IP supports both pervasive computing and pervasive networking, since the Internet has created such expansive public networks with vast information transport abilities used to support such operations.

Pervasive networking has been, in part, prompted by the industry addressing the needs of its consumers.

According to Nicoll: “Pervasive networking erases many of the distinctions we made before-between home consumer, mobile consumer, road warrior, enterprise, TV watcher, music downloader, etc.-because people are jumping between those categories all the time. Now it's about staying connected to your life, wherever you are and at any time, [while] not connected to a specific network.”

By understanding that pervasive networking touches on numerous aspects of daily life, it's clear that this technology benefits most market segments and individuals.

As pervasive networking lets PDAs, cell phones and computers communicate with one another, the pervasive wireless solution-when chips, processors and/or routers are embedded into products, making them operational through the network-will add other items to the list that have traditionally been separate.

M2M, which stands for machine-to-machine, allows for communication between nontraditional devices such as air conditioners, security systems and even lightbulbs. RFID, Bluetooth and ZigBee are wireless technologies that can be associated with and supported by pervasive computing and networking.

The disadvantages to pervasive networking include interference-because pervasive wireless operates over radio frequencies-and power issues, but power over Ethernet can help alleviate some of these problem. These issues need addressing before an all-encompassing system is created.

Pervasive networking, though in its early stages, is on its way to becoming commonplace. As Lucent's Nicoll said: “We are increasingly getting to a point where networks are capable of delivering nearly any service to any user anywhere that user may be. This is a huge paradigm shift that requires users to change the way they approach their need for services.

“We can see the day where multimedia content is personalized to individual preference and is delivered wherever you want it,” Nicoll said.

When devices such as appliances and lighting are added, then we are talking about a seamless, connected world. These work projects will most likely become even more pervasive for electrical contractors. EC

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.